Yet another shining example of the former genre filmmaker who has since emerged to become one of Hollywood's premier players (see Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson), writer/director Bill Condon first made an impression on audiences with the clever slasher parody Strange Behavior (1981) before breaking into the mainstream with Gods and Monsters -- a thoughtful tribute to Bride of Frankenstein director James Whale -- in 1998.
A lifelong film fanatic, Condon was born in New York City in 1955. It was during his early years that the future director would take in a steady stream of such classic horrors as Bride of Frankenstein and House on Haunted Hill, and following his graduation from Columbia University (where he earned his degree in philosophy) Condon began expressing his love for the medium as a film journalist. Later, when producer Michael Laughlin contacted Condon to offer praise for an article that the writer had penned for Millimeter, the pair fast became friends and agreed to collaborate on the quirky horror thriller Strange Behavior. Though it didn't necessarily score a direct hit at the box office, the film did manage to earn a small cult following, and two years later the duo would re-team for the semi-sequel Strange Invaders. It was now official; Condon didn't simply write about films anymore, he made them.
In 1987, Condon made the leap from writer to director with the horror-flavored Southern Gothic thriller Sister, Sister. Though, as with his previous efforts, Sister, Sister didn't necessarily break any box-office records, it did earn faint praise for its unsettling atmosphere in addition to offering Condon the opportunity to work with such well-known actors as Eric Stoltz and Jennifer Jason Leigh. While many who had been tracking Condon's career may have suspected that his subsequent turn to made-for-television features in the years between 1991 and 1994 marked something of a step backward, it not only provided him the opportunity to work with such talents as Gregory Hines, Pierce Brosnan, and Gwyneth Paltrow, but it also allowed him to sharpen his skills as a writer while learning how to become an efficient filmmaker. In 1991, Condon collaborated with Australian star Bryan Brown on both the made-for-television Dead in the Water and the eagerly anticipated sequel F/X 2. Before long, Condon finally realized his lifelong dream of directing his first straight-up horror film -- Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh.
Now with two feature films and a collection of made-for-television movies to his name, it was time for Condon to truly test his mettle. Though he knew without question that he could craft a compelling feature film out of author Christopher Bram's acclaimed novel The Father of Frankenstein, Condon soon found himself up against a wall when Hollywood producers weary by the financial failure of Tim Burton's Ed Wood were loathe to commit to a biopic detailing the life of a semi-obscure genre filmmaker (in this case, Bride of Frankenstein director James Whale). Fortunately for all involved Condon persisted, and when it came time for the Academy to honor the best films of 1998, stars Ian McKellen and Lynn Redgrave received nominations while the screenwriter and director himself walked away with an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Shot for three million dollars over the course of just 24 days, Gods and Monsters proved the unmitigated success that blindsided skeptical producers and suddenly thrust the director onto the A-list.
Another Best Adapted Screenplay nomination followed when Condon received a nod for his screenplay to Chicago in 2002, and it appeared that the one-time schlock-master could do no wrong in the eyes of the Academy when his 2004 biopic Kinsey -- a dramatic meditation on the life of human sexuality researcher Alfred Kinsey (portrayed in the film by Liam Neeson) -- earned actress Laura Linney an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
It was now official -- Condon was a key player in the Hollywood elite. He had worked with some of the biggest names in the business, and earned the respect of the powers that be. The only mystery now was what the director would do with his newfound status. When Condon was a child, his father had taken him to a performance by the Supremes, and as an adult he had sat captivated at the opening night of the hit Broadway musical Dreamgirls. Since Condon had previously achieved success in the realm of musicals (Chicago) and biopics, it seemed only natural that he would express interest in bringing Dreamgirls to life on the big screen. A thinly veiled account of the stratospheric rise and meteoric fall of the Supremes, Condon's Dreamgirls featured a powerhouse cast that included Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Beyoncé Knowles, and Danny Glover, and seemed to have all the makings of a box-office hit. When Dreamgirls received Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Song, and Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, the near-unanimous critical praise heaped upon the film seemed to be well justified. On the night of the actual awards ceremony, Dreamgirls would take home three Golden Globes (Best Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress), leaving many to speculate that it could make a similar sweep at the upcoming Academy Awards.
~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide